ALAMEDA -- Looking for a sneak peek into new Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie's draft philosophy?Look no further.With the Raiders holding draft selections in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds (two each in the fourth and fifth rounds) McKenzie held a pre-draft media conference Wednesday at the team's headquarters."We're in the beginning stages of our draft meetings," McKenzie said. "Been going on a couple of days so we're looking forward to getting our draft board exactly the way we want it and also excited to see all the players around and working out and getting familiar with the coaching staff. So this is an exciting time and we're just going to try and see if we can get better each day. But the draft preparations are going very well. All the scouts are in and getting this board the way we want it."Thanks to compensatory selections awarded them, the Raiders' first selection comes at the end of the third round, No. 95 overall.McKenzie has said he wants to pick the best player available, regardless of need. Still, I asked him what the Raiders' biggest needs were heading into the draft."You know what? When I talk to the coaching staff about (it), we need depth," he said. "We feel like weve got players that we can line up at a lot of spots. And weve got some good players. But when you talk about a guy goes down (injured), who do we have? A guy goes down here we need depth at a few spots. Quite a few spots. And some of these guys, its going to play out with the competition that we already have. The coaches are going to have to get to know some of these guys who are already on the roster."But we need some depth, regardless. To compete and hopefully win jobs. And thats what were targeting. When we say 'best player,' whether its D-line, linebacker, O-line, tight end, I mean, it doesnt matter. We want to get a good player."Weve got five picks, we need to make them all count."McKenzie is in a unique situation in that this is going to be his first draft, but his first selection won't come until the last pick of the second night of the draft. He has an opportunity to sit tight and watch the proceedings unfold.So that means he can ease into it real calm-like, right?"Absolutely not," McKenzie said with a big grin. "I wont be OK. Its hard to sleep now. Its an exciting time. This has been, Coach (Al) Davis, this has been his deal since the Raiders were the Raiders. So, I am the new guy. This is my first time drafting after a legend has been drafting for the Raiders for so long. So, its huge. But I am excited about it and I am looking forward to it."There are still so many people in the organization, so I get to hear everything about how he used to do it."Which begs a couple of questions -- would Davis have traded away a first-round draft pick for Carson Palmer, as former coach Hue Jackson convinced the Raiders to do last year? And will McKenzie even pay attention to the early-round talent since he does not select until 95th?"We'll take a look at them," McKenzie said. "We're going to go through the process. When Cincinnati's pick, from us, comes up (at No. 17 overall), we're going to figure out who's the guy on the board that we would like to have.McKenzie smiled."But we'll go through that process.," he added. "I need to go through that process. Being my first year, I want to go through that process. Second round also. Even the third round."That's when things really get started for McKenzie and the Raiders.
It’s officially NFL draft week. Marshawn Lynch still isn’t a Raider.
A contract impasse remained as of Sunday morning, a few days before general manager Reggie McKenzie’s desire for a by-Thursday resolution.
Deadlines, even soft ones, prompt deals. But Marshawn is unique, adding a level of uncertainty to procedings.
The Raiders would prefer Lynch agree to terms on a new contract so they can acquire his rights from Seattle -- that’s the easier part – and know where they stand heading into the NFL Draft.
McKenzie left several doors cracked during a Friday pre-draft presser, saying Lynch’s presence wouldn’t stop him from drafting a rusher, not having the Oakland native wouldn’t guarantee it, and that there’s always a chance Lynch could come later no matter what happens during amateur selection.
Those things could be true. Or, you know, not. McKenzie prefers mystery this time of year.
Bottom line: The Raiders need a bigger back to pair with smaller, yet elusive runners DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard.
The Raiders want Lynch to fill the void. Ditto for Raider Nation, especially the Oakland state. A few free-agent options remain, including LaGarrette Blount. Or the Raiders could draft a back, something the Raiders have done well in later rounds.
They got Latavius Murray in the sixth round four years back, and he provided quality before changing uniforms this offseason. They got Washington in the fifth last time and pulled Richard from undrafted free agency. They could mine talent again this year. Waiting seems more likely if Lynch is around.
Quality abounds in this draft class, with several worthy of early selections and talent easily found late. Let’s inspect McKenzie’s draft options at running back, should he need one:
Good fits: It’s hard to see the Raiders looking at a rusher in the first round, considering the draft’s depth at the position and major defensive needs. A first-round talent might be considered in the second. If controversial former Oklahoma rusher Joe Mixon is available following a free fall due to off-field issues described in detail here, a running back might come early.
Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara could be another Day 2 option, an explosive talent who analysts say has wiggle and power to create coveted yards after contact. He could be a three-down back thanks to quality as a receiver.
Odds are, however, the Raiders will look deeper into the draft. Wyoming’s Brian Hill was an excellent college producer who runs strong and might fit well into the Raiders rotation. Round projections vary, but he should be available on Day 3.
Pittsburgh’s James Conner offers great power at 233 pounds. He could run through tacklers and wear down defenses for the Raiders’ shift backs. He's also well known for drive and work ethic. He is projected as a fifth or sixth round pick.
Brigham Young’s Jamaal Williams might offer value and power rushing later in the draft. Clemson’s Wayne Gallman has tackle-breaking ability, but analysts say he isn’t a strong pass protector.
The Raiders had an NFL-worst 25 sacks last season, and that’s with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin in their employ. That duo had 18 sacks (and 11 forced fumbles) between them. That left only seven for everyone else. Stacy McGee and Denico Autry had 2.5 each, and McGee isn’t here anymore.
Mario Edwards Jr. was certainly missed last season, when he missed 14 games with a preseason hip injury. The versatile defensive lineman is a solid edge run defender and internal pass rusher in the sub package.
If he’s healthy, Edwards Jr. could pose a real threat rushing the passer next to Irvin or Mack.
“Having Mario healthy will make us a better defense, and that’s not just as a pass rusher,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said in March. “He’s a solid run player. We’ve just got to have him healthy.
“But we’ll continue to add there, too.”
McKenzie subtracted one Tuesday, releasing Dan Williams to free salary cap space. He hasn’t yet added a defensive tackle in free agency, but could certainly do so in next week’s NFL draft.
There’s some quality interior pass rushers in this class. Let’s take a look at some options the Raiders could select and when:
Good fits: The Raiders select 24th overall in this draft, far lower than years past. Some quality defensive tackles might be a proper fit there, especially with depth at positions of need.
They could use some versatility, players like Edwards Jr. who can play multiple techniques. Michigan State’s Malik McDowell is an strong, athletic freak who analysts believe needs to improve his effort and technique. McDowell could develop into a top talent and be viewed as a steal at No. 24, or not realize full potential.
Michigan’s Chris Wormley is a versatile player in the Edwards Jr. mold, a player who seems to fit Raiders needs. Analysts says inconsistency is troubling but has the leadership quality and character the Raiders love. He can be a base end and move inside when required. He also has the size at 6-foot-5, 298 pounds and could develop well at the NFL level while making an immediate impact.
Florida’s Caleb Brantley is also an intriguing prospect adept at reaching the offensive backfield. Analysts say he’s a powerful player with quickness and an ability to work through blocks despite being slightly undersized. Brantley is potential to be a quality NFL pass rusher, and is confident in his ability. He didn’t play a high snap count at Florida, but the Raiders might use him in sub packages as a rookie and fill an important role right away. He’s viewed as a second round pick, and the Silver and Black might cross fingers he’s available at No. 56.
Auburn’s Montravius Adams could help if the Raiders are looking for more of a run stuffer. Clemson’s Carlos Watkins could also play multiple spots and could be available later in the middle rounds. Old Dominion’s Rashaad Coward also fits that mold and would be available in later rounds, though he hasn’t had much pass-rush production.